A chip-in birdie on his final hole handed Thomas Pieters a one-shot lead heading into the weekend at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
The big-hitting Belgian carded seven birdies at Abu Dhabi Golf Club as he surged to 12 under par, one ahead of Spain's Jorge Campillo.
Ryder Cup star Pieters, who finished second in this event in 2016 and fourth a year earlier, made three birdies in an outward 33 after starting on the back nine.
Pieters birdied the first then holed from 20 feet at the second, with two putts from just off the green at the par-five eighth providing another gain.
The 25 year old found sand with both his tee shot and approach at the ninth, but chipped in from the bunker for an unlikely closing birdie.
“We have a decent game plan,” he said. “I've done well here in the past and it suits me. We hit driver wherever we can and the rest of it, it's good ball-striking and going at a couple flags with wedges when you have them that you need to do that.
“It was nice to hole one on the last after two terrible shots. But the rest of it was decent today. Ball-striking was good.
“I hit most of the middle of the greens. If I had a wedge, I went at the flag and I think I got up-and-down or made birdie with a wedge in my hand three or four times. It wasn't really that fancy today but a very good round.”
Campillo, chasing a maiden European Tour title in his 194th event and having finished as a runner-up three times, was pleased to take advantage of perfect scoring conditions.
“It was perfect - no wind,” he said. “The greens are perfect, and every time I look up, everyone is making a putt. The rough is a little lower than normally. I mean, it's perfect to shoot low. You still have to do it but it's a great day to play golf.
“I have a top-ten here and I normally play good around here. So I do like the course. I think it's a fair course. It's tough but it's playing easy but it can play hard with the wind.
“I played good last week. Practising hard this winter and I'm glad the work is paying off.”
Three of Pieters' EurAsia Cup team-mates from last week's European victory over Asia were tied for third, with France's Alex Levy, England's Ross Fisher and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood all on ten under par.
Rory McIlroy was part of a four-way tie on nine under in his first event since October, with World Number One Dustin Johnson a shot further back.